PABMH players lace up, let loose, give back

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — There were many reasons to celebrate this past holiday season, and one of them is the fact that Channel-Port aux Basques (PAB) Minor Hockey are back, minus the restrictions once in place due to COVID-19. Brock Seaward, President of PAB Minor Hockey, said it’s nice to be able to get back to normal.

“There’s no restrictions. The parents are allowed in the building. There’s no pathways. Everything is just normal, which is good,” said Seaward. “COVID never impacted our membership, our enrollment. We held our strong numbers throughout. There was one season that parents weren’t allowed in to spectate at all, with the exception of the small kids that needed help with their equipment and stuff, but other than that we were unaffected. It took a real toll on the parents, the social aspect and being able to check in on their kids. That was two years ago. That wasn’t last year, but we are operating back to normal now. Morale is up nice and high for the most part. Everybody is back to their normal routines.”

Seaward said the game schedule will really start ramping up after Christmas, and that can sometimes be a significant task to keep straight.

“It’s a lot to be scheduling. The lady who takes care of our scheduling, she's busy that’s for sure. Minor Hockey, we are the biggest customer of the Bruce II. We’re the largest ice time consumer. It’s a big task to make sure everything is scheduled properly, but we’re doing it. It’s going good.”

The return of minor hockey may be even more important to some families, especially considering how much was lost during Fiona.

“I know for sure that we had two female hockey players that were affected by Fiona in a big way. These two players, they lost their family homes. One little girl’s family home collapsed on the shore line and another little girl, her house is still standing but it hasn’t been livable since the day of the storm. That wasn’t far from our radar,” said Seaward.

“We’ve had a few families that were affected by Fiona, whether it was the days after, finding their homes sustained damage, but they were still able to live in their houses, or people like a young boy player we have whose family home recently got written off because the damage that took place was too extensive, so they’re a displaced family now as well.”

Seaward hopes minor hockey will help give these families the boost they need to keep their spirits up during such trying times.

“I’m sure minor hockey plays a role in the stress-relief for the kids involved and also for the parents involved as well, as a temporary escape from reality, something to take their mind off the depth of their situation.”

Aside from the practices and the games, minor hockey does a lot of work within the community, including in the most immediate aftermath of the storm.

“We had some girls manning the water truck because the drinking water was not good for human consumption. They brought out fresh water from Corner Brook in a big tanker truck, so we had some of those girls on the hockey teams doing those type of things, volunteering and helping out with the effort,” said Seaward. “It was the under 13 group, and they were up to the Lions Club helping unload the tractor trailers, packing up the stuff that was donated from across the island and Atlantic Canada, and this particular hockey team actually got to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Labour, Seamus O’Regan. They got to chat with those two individuals for a few minutes, and they expressed their gratitude to those players.”

Seaward said he knows that the team made a lasting impression on both politicians.

“Myself, personally, I met with Minister O’Regan at the Fiona Benefit Concert in St. John’s and he remembered me from being there that day, and he actually brought up about the team and the good work they are doing, being so young and helping out, and how it was uplifting.”

Minor hockey also organized a toy drive for the Christmas season and will continue to do their part to help when they're not practicing or playing hockey.

“We refer to ourselves a lot of times as a hockey family. Sometimes it’s your winter friends, your hockey family, and everybody seems to work together and come together and do what has to be done. We are known across the island for hosting some of the most hospitable tournaments that are offered for our provincial year-end tournaments, so it is a hockey family. It’s a good organization for sure.”

Seaward added that minor hockey is also very excited to see the Mariners return to the ice this January.

“We are excited that senior hockey is on the go again. Hopefully they will put a good product on the ice, get the fans in the stands, because the trend is usually – I haven’t witnessed it myself, but they tell me – when senior hockey is in town, membership in minor hockey enrollment goes up. I guess the kids aspire to be a big hockey player one of these days, so hopefully that holds true. We wish the Port aux Basques Mariners good luck as well.”

Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wreckhouse Weekly News